The family of a 64-year-old North Charleston man who was killed at a stoplight last month when a suspected drunk driver rammed into the back of his Ford Mustang has filed a wrongful death suit.
John Andrew Biggs, 47, faces one count of felony driving under the influence in the death of Calvin Lavert Walker. The charge was filed in connection with a wreck around 4 a.m. Oct. 8 on Rivers Avenue.
Biggs, who lived in Kentucky prior to a recent move to North Charleston, was hospitalized nearly a month before he was transported to the Charleston County jail for a bond hearing Thursday. Magistrate Judge Priscilla Baldwin denied bail, forcing Biggs to remain in custody unless a circuit judge agrees to his release. He had not yet been assigned a public defender at the time of his hearing.
If convicted, Biggs faces from one to 25 years in prison.
A court document filed in Charleston County by attorney Nathan Hughey for Walker’s only son alleged Biggs was driving more than 100 mph and failed to stop as he approached Walker’s Mustang.
The vehicle burst into flames and Walker was killed. A third vehicle was sideswiped, though its driver was not injured, according to an incident report released by North Charleston police.
When questioned by investigators, Biggs admitted having two or three beers prior to the wreck, the incident report stated.
“I continued talking to the driver and he was making no sense,” an officer wrote in the report. “I inquired as to where he was drinking and he stated something about ‘over in the kitchen.’ I asked what time was his last drink, and he stated 0530 a.m., however, it was not yet 0530 a.m.”
A blood sample was drawn and given to State Law Enforcement Division agents for toxicology tests, which take roughly six weeks to complete.
The family’s wrongful death suit alleged negligence, saying Biggs “owed a duty of due care to Calvin L. Walker Sr. to operate the vehicle in a safe and non-negligent manner.” Instead, he failed to maintain a proper lookout, to yield to Walker’s vehicle, control his own vehicle and was speeding while allegedly intoxicated, displaying “a complete, utter and reckless disregard for other motorists,” the document states.
Also listed as a defendant in the suit is 24-year-old Kyle Bassett, the owner of the truck Biggs’ was driving. Bassett should have known Biggs’ condition before entrusting the man with his truck, the lawsuit alleged.
In an interview, Bassett said he was home asleep when Biggs took his truck.
“I didn’t give him permission to take it,” Bassett said. Biggs had access to a set of keys that he was only supposed to use if Bassett’s motorcycle broke down and he needed a ride, he said.
“I feel bad for them and I apologize for what happened,” Bassett said. “There’s just no way I could have known.”
Bassett didn’t know Biggs to be much of a drinker over the course of their five-year friendship, he said. Biggs left behind his cellphone and a pack of cigarettes before taking Bassett’s truck.
“To me it sounds like he didn’t plan on coming back. It just don’t make sense,” he said.
Biggs appeared slumped in a wheelchair when he addressed Baldwin, the judge, via video teleconferencing from the Charleston County jail during his bond hearing.
“I honestly don’t know what’s going on,” Biggs said when questioned.
“Well,” Baldwin responded, “you’ve been in the hospital, you’ve been in a coma, but now you’re at the detention center.”
Biggs told the judge he had a high school education and was in the area looking for work.
“I do pretty much whatever,” he said, citing experience working in restaurants and laying concrete.
John Miles of Ravenel, Walker’s brother-in-law, stood on his family’s behalf during the hearing.
“You changed a lot of people’s lives,” Miles told Biggs, “You hurt a lot of people.”
Miles asked the judge to deny bond before sinking back into his seat to wipe his tears.
Walker moved to South Carolina in 2005 after retiring from an electrical company in Massachusetts, according to his family. He worked part time delivering auto parts and loved football.
Knowing that Biggs would remain in jail helped “a little” with the grief, Miles said, but Walker’s loss will be difficult heading into the holidays. A closed-casket funeral was also a source of great pain for his wife, Miles said.
The family requested a jury trial and is seeking an unspecified amount in actual and punitive damages.